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Robocalls delay first day of insurance enrollment in Minn.

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton, left, and House Speaker Kurt Daudt brief reporters Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2016, about a potential special legislative session to deal with health insurance rates. Behind them are Commissioner Myron Frans of Minnesota Management and Budget, left, and Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman. (Forum News Service photo by Don Davis)

ST. PAUL—The opening of individual health insurance policy sales Tuesday, Nov. 1, was greeted by a robocall effort to block people from reaching the state agency selling policies.

Gov. Mark Dayton said the seven-minute wait time for people calling about insurance policies at 9 a.m. slowed to 19 minutes when the automated telephone calls tied up the system. The robocall system was blocked from the MNsure state-run insurance sales agency, the governor added, and call waits quickly dropped.

Dayton said he did not know the source of the calls, or if they were politically motivated. MNsure and the federal Affordable Care Act have been hot topics in the current election campaign.

Tuesday was the first day Americans could buy individual policies. About 5 percent of Minnesotans depend on them, not having coverage through their employers or government programs.

Minnesotans have until the end of December to buy policies, although the Dayton administration on Friday requested federal permission to extend the enrollment period.

Health insurance policies bought on the individual market for 2017 are going to be 50 percent to 67 percent more expensive, state Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman says.

Most insurance companies offering health policies in the state also are limiting how many customers can sign up. Many who watch the health insurance situation say those caps may be met within days, so Rothman and Dayton recommend people sign up as soon as they can.

Once the caps are met, people in most counties only will have Blue Cross Blue Shield's Blue Plus health maintenance organization available for health coverage. It is costlier, has higher deductibles and limits what health-care providers are covered.

While Minnesotans began buying insurance, Dayton and House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, met at the governor's residence to discuss how to reduce premium increases.

The two emerged after talking more than an hour, without a firm deal but with an agreement for staff members to work together and draw up a plan that could be approved at a post-election special legislative session.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.
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